Bracknell Forest Digital Services


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Reviewing the (statistical) situation

It’s been over 7 months since we last posted on here, announcing the launch of our website. No excuses, but it’s just been one of those periods where there hasn’t been the time to sit and reflect and blog.

In brief, we’ve been moving from project to project, many of which were time sensitive and demanding. In addition, our team has been changing, with members leaving and devolved editors being merged into our centralised team. It’s been a time of change for the council as a whole as well and our team has been working to keep up.

That said, I’ve finally had a chance to sit down today and look at the stats from our site over the first 6 months. Whilst we’ve been monitoring the site stats, it was the first time I’ve put all the data together to get an idea of the bigger picture. I thought I would share some of that data with you.

Note: Technically we launched in mid-June, but for the ease of reporting, I’m working with data from 1 July 2017 to 31 December 2017.


Sessions

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In 6 months, we had 1,036,510 sessions logged on our site. This is compared to 880,360 sessions in the same period last year on our old site.

Users

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We had 548,475 users of our site during the 6 month period. This compares to 574,506 users in the same period last year.

This is a slight decrease in users, some of which is accounted for in changes to the way we monitor our stats as for our site as we are now blocking internal traffic from being reported.

Pageviews

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In terms of pageviews, we hit over 3 million hits in the half year. This compares to 2,388,654 for the same period last year.

Some of the increase in pageviews is likely accounted for by our move to guide pages. We are now splitting longer and more complicated content into multiple pages to help the customer journey. This means that what was once a single page, a user might need to work through 4 or 5 smaller pages on their journey.

Traffic sources

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We often tell our colleagues that most people use a search engine to find our content, rather than navigate from the home page. With over 70% of traffic coming from organic searches, our new site is certainly proving this.

Even with direct traffic, we see that most customers go to a page they know. Only 12% of our direct traffic is going to the homepage first. This really emphasises that the homepage isn’t necessarily the most important page on the site. This is made clearer still when you realise that our homepage, whilst the second most popular page on the site, is still getting less than 5% of pageviews overall!

Site search

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Whilst we really like using Drupal for our new site, we have had some implementation issues with our search, particularly relating to content within guide pages. This has caused a number of complaints from customers and staff looking for content. We’re looking into resolving these issues as soon as we can, reviewing how we use guide pages to present content.

That said, based on our search report, only 3% of sessions used our site search in the 6 months from July 2017. So whilst it’s key we get our search functioning properly, it’s clear from the stats that most customers go directly to the content they need, generally using an external search.

Devices

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With a responsive site, it’s great to see that mobile traffic continues to outperform desktop usage. We’ve put a lot of work into getting our site mobile friendly and as these numbers continue to increase, it’s ever important to make sure future developments are mobile friendly.

(For those of you who want to know what devices our user’s love, that’s fairly clear: 45.28% of all mobile traffic was from an Apple product!)

Browsers

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Based on the prevalent use of Apple devices, it’s no surprise that Safari tops our browser list with 40.25% of sessions. In addition, Internet Explorer has significantly decreased in usage, although Edge has yet to make the top 5!

Top pages

With over 3 million pageviews across some 2000 pages, our site is well used. However, as you can see from the top 10 below, Coral Reef Waterworld significantly skews our pageview statistics.

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Within the next couple of months, these stats will be radically different. Coral Reef, Bracknell Leisure Centre and Downshire Golf Complex are being outsourced and so 7 of our top 10 pages will be removed from the site.

This is obviously going to have a big impact on our pageviews (and probably sessions in general). In fact, I think we can safely say that our stats will decrease significantly and our next 6 month review will likely tell a different story!


If you’ve made it this far, well done! It might be time for a tea break!

We will hopefully be back before long with more updates for you as to what we’ve been up to. In the meantime, thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

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Publishing website statistics

Last month Public Service Digital published an article around the data that council digital teams share and how, this being 2016, we really ought to be making better use of the tools available for doing this. Further, the article raised the idea that perhaps there ought to be some form of standards around the publication of the data in order to make it comparable.

This raised some discussion in our team around what we are currently doing, and how we could improve the provision of data for our public website.

Like many councils, we use Google Analytics to monitor our website performance. We already publish some basic statistics on a monthly basis, but it is limited.

GOV.UK have some really interesting presentation of their website statistics, and whilst we are not there yet, it is something to aim for in terms of data publication.

Instead, we have opted for something quicker and simpler to get us moving in the right direction. We have used the Google Analytics Spreadsheet add-on to put together a new website statistics page.

This page currently shows some of our key website statistics in the shape of interactive graphs, like the one below.

 

We’ve added what we think are some of the key metrics for looking at website performance, but we would be interested to know what others publish, and whether providing more information would be useful. It would be great to have a discussion around what data councils should be publishing in this area and whether there ought to be some form of shared standards for publication so making comparisons becomes easier.

Finally, thanks has to go to Croydon council’s web team as their website statistics page and spreadsheet really helped us understand what we needed to make this work. Using this, plus the tutorial videos available from Google, we managed to put this page together quite quickly. The whole process is simple and these videos are a great starting point if you want to make something similar out of your statistics.

Over the coming months we will look to improve on this initial offering and share further data for our website performance. Is there any particular data you think we should share on this page? Let us know in the comments!

Diagram showing routing to birth information


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Homepage navigation survey: the results

Our recent homepage navigation survey produced some interesting results. In all, 281 people took part, with 201 participants completing all of the tasks. Whilst we are analysing these in our team, we thought it might be interesting to share what we learnt about our proposed navigation with you.

We will take a look at the overall results, as well as the breakdown of results and what we have learnt from running the survey. It’s quite a long read, with lots of diagrams, so it might be worth getting that cup of tea first!

Overall results

Taking a look at the overall results provides some positive indications that our suggested navigation is on the right track.

Chart showing success and directness ratings

The success rating shows that 89% of tasks completed by participants ended up at the correct answer. The directness rating shows that for those tasks completed, 78% found the correct answer without having to backtrack.

This is good news for us as much of the proposed navigation seems to work. We can confirm this, and check where there are issues or changes needed, by looking at the task results in more detail.

The tasks

1. Council tax

Our first task, about setting up a direct debit, was very successful, and participants found it easy to find with a 96% success rate and the information being found in under 12 seconds. Comments on the survey back this up:

“Seemed very simple and user friendly. I was surprised how quickly I located things.”

Council tax task information

The ease of finding this information is highlighted when we look at where participants navigated to from ‘Home’. As we see below, other than some outliers, most participants went straight to the right page.

council-tax-task-pie2. Births

Our second task, about registering the birth of a child, proved more challenging for customers and had the lowest success rate for a task within the survey. We can see from our analytics that whilst customers managed to complete the task 70% of the time, they often did not directly find the answer.

births-task

To explore where customers went instead, we can take a look at the routes they took.

Diagram showing routing to birth information

From the chart above, we can see that many customers looked within children and family services for this information. This was backed up by participant comments.

“I would have registered births under children’s service and social care, but I didn’t get this option.”

“Birth registration should be under children and families not ‘other services’. I had to go there as a last resort rather than actually wanting to find it there.”

In order to account for this within our navigation, we should make sure that we link to this information from within the Children and Families section, as well as with the Births, marriages and deaths section.

3. Housing

Our housing benefit task had a 97% success rate. The directness rating was a little lower than council tax at 90% but still indicates that the content was easy to find.

Information relating to housing benefit task

Looking at the navigation routes taken for this suggests that most customers are not actually taking the direct route via ‘Benefits’ but rather are navigating through ‘Housing’. This indicates that putting it within the main housing section was a good assumption, whilst also accounting for those looking for ‘Benefits’ first.

Diagram showing routing to housing benefit information4. Trees

Our tree task scored a little lower than most of our tasks, with a success rate of 82%. However, only 73% of participants got there directly, suggesting that they were looking for it in a number of places.

Information about the tree task

As the diagram below shows, whilst the majority of participants made it to the trees section, there was a lot of variety in how they got there. Looking at the analytics, 153 participants made it to ‘Trees’ via ‘Environmental issues’ and only 13 made it via ‘Parks and countryside’. So whilst trees have traditionally sat within the parks section, the results suggest that customers will not look for it here. Further, 96 participants went to ‘Planning and building control’ for tree information, suggesting that tree information needs to be signposted here as well.

Diagram showing routes taken to tree information

5. Councillors

Finding out who your local Councillor is, is an important task for local democracy. Our survey results show that participants were, with the exception of a few outliers, able to successfully find this information.

Information about the Councillor task

The diagram below shows that most customers went to ‘The council and democracy’ to find this information, whilst our signpost back to this from elections helped those that did not.

Diagram showing routes taken to Councillor information

With regards to this question, we received several comments regarding the use of the term ‘The council and democracy’. We are now investigating other options for what we call this section, including ‘About the council’. It is likely that we will do more testing on this to find out what works best for our customers.

6. Fostering

The task relating to fostering was one that participants found straightforward.

Information about fostering task

The diagram below highlights that the majority of participants (196) found fostering information under ‘Children and family services’. Most of the remaining participants found it through ‘Health and social care’ where fostering information is referenced for those looking for it there.

Diagram showing navigation route to fostering information7. Graffiti

We were interested in looking at graffiti as a task because of where it sits under the heading ‘Environmental issues.’ As a team we had debated the use of this term and we wanted to test it out. The success rate was 94% which is great, but there were some issues with directness. 75% of participants got to the task directly which means that 25% of participants didn’t manage to find it straight away.

Information about the graffiti task

This was backed up with feedback on the survey. For example one participant commented:

“I found the … task particularly difficult – ‘Environmental’ is a broad term and it took me quite some time to discover the Graffiti branch.”

So, where did participants look for this task? As we can see from the diagram below, they looked in a range of places. The most notable was that they checked under ‘More services’ for this task, although ‘Housing’ was also popular. This may be because we referenced the task to graffiti outside a house. This suggests that we will need to investigate how we link key tasks around the website, rather than feature them exclusively in one area.

Diagram showing routes to graffiti information

8. Licensing

When discussing the initial navigation to test, we struggled with where to put licensing information, so it was interesting to see where customers looked for this. This test, whilst having an 86% success rate, shows that having licensing information under ‘Business information’ was not where participants were looking for it. We can see this because only 54% of participants went directly to the task.

Information about the licensing task

In order to work out where else we might locate licensing information, we can look at where customers went before they made it to ‘Business information.’

65 participants went to ‘Planning and building control,’ whilst 62 went to ‘More services.’ This suggests that, at the very least, we need to reference licensing within ‘Planning and building control,’ and perhaps even consider having licensing as its own section. Again, this is something that we will need to carry out further user testing on.

Diagram showing the routing towards licensing information

What next?

Having carried out this survey on our main navigation, we will now take the results and look at how we can improve how the navigation works. For example, we will make sure that the licensing section is easier to find and that births information is linked from children and family services, among other changes.

Thank you once again to everyone who took part in the survey.

 


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Running workshops

We have now held our first three workshops (council tax, births and jobs). The first two workshops were test runs. The teams knew they were having the process tested out on them, which made it a little less nerve-wracking to stand in front of them and ask them lots of questions about their service. Hopefully some of those nerves will disappear during the course of the next 70 workshops!

The test runs have already helped us tweak the workshop process, and it is quite likely to change again as we get more used to running them. At the moment though, we are starting each workshop by asking some core questions:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What tasks are they carrying out?
  • How are they accessing your service?
  • Why are they accessing you service?

These questions make sure we are being as customer focused as possible, teasing out of service teams the information they have on their customers and their tasks that perhaps we don’t see through the website.

The example below is from our jobs workshop. One of the key bits of information we got out of this was that the service needs to be truly accessible out of hours. It needs as much self-service as possible as more often than not, customers are using the jobs portal outside working hours, around their current jobs.

Core questions - jobs

We are also looking to find out what impression a service team has on their digital situation. This means that we are discussing:

  • the key statistics, such as the top page hits
  • what type of content is available
  • what they think are barriers to making the service as online as possible

These discussions have been informing us as to what tasks we need to be focusing on to meet customer needs.

We have then been using the information gathered in the first part of the workshop to start creating a user journey on the key task for the service area. We are helping the service team map out the main routes of access to a task and looking at what, in an ideal world, the customer will see and do.

Registering a birth user journey mapping

I’ve drawn this out below to make it a little more legible – my board writing ability is obviously something I’m going to have to work on!

Registering a birth user journey

In the example of registering a birth, we discovered that new mothers in Bracknell Forest may have many routes into our website, such as from forums or midwife visits, as well as search engines.

Once they reach our website, the team were surprised at how formal the language we use sounded and want to make it more simple and friendly, with clearer calls to action.

At the moment, a customer must phone to book an appointment to register a birth, but the information surrounding this is online, so the journey brings them back to the site, where they can get the relevant information for the appointment, as well as signposts to other information such as passports and benefits.

So far, we have produced several of these hand-drawn user journeys, which we will now discuss further within our team and wire-frame, before building them into a beta site for customer testing to refine them. As soon as these are up and ready, we will post links for feedback.

If you want to take a look at how we are doing things now, why not take a look at our current jobs or births sections. We welcome any feedback on the current site so that we can take it forward into our beta version!


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3 years and counting

Over the past few months we have done a lot of stock taking on our existing website. This has helped us inform the way we want to move forward with the re-development.

It’s also a good way of benchmarking for the future. Our current site is over three years old. In this time, we have gathered a large quantity of statistics about usage of the site. We can see what people come to our site for, as well as what type of information we present to them when they do – from content pages to PDF documents.

By looking at where we are now, we hope to get a good idea of how our re-developed site has improved the customer experience.

We’ve put together an infographic to highlight the most interesting (to us, at least) key statistics from the last three years. If infographs are not your thing, the statistics are also available below with a little explanation of the figures.

Key statistics from the public website since April 2012

Content growth

The figures around content show that the site has grown, despite attempts to keep page numbers down. This has sometimes led to unnecessarily long pages, something we are going to be looking at during the re-development.

Year Number of pages
2012 996
2013 1208
2014 1191
2015 1244

Likewise, the number of PDF documents on our site has also grown, getting up to nearly 3000 at some points. We have managed to bring this back down through careful assessment of the need for a document, but we still have a long way to go.

Year Number of documents
2012 1874
2013 2840
2014 1197
2015 2170

Overall key figures

Page views 17,752,383
Visitors 2,841,258
Visits 5,898,175

Yearly key figures

These figures show us that in terms of visits and visitors, we have had a steady increase in both, reflecting the general trend towards online services. Similarly, the number of page views has also grown over the years.

2012-13  2013-14  2014-15
Visits  1,581,131  2,172,729  2,354,903
Visitors 793,654  1,097,603  1,227,738
Page views  5,097,905  6,144,779  7,028,221

For a more detailed breakdown of our statistics, we update our website statistics page monthly.

We’ll also be back over the coming weeks to take a closer look at what these figures have shown us.